Tap tap tap…testing, 1, 2, 3…is this thing on? Wait a minute, we have a blog? And it’s helpful to actually write on it sometimes? Shut the front door! Now if only my memory could serve me better to help me remember what this blogging thing is, and how I do it. I’m kind of surprised I remembered my login information. If I do recall, I think I just write some words and put it online and maybe three people will read it. Oh wait, the kids can’t read yet. So maybe one person will find something in here that will help.

Hello friends. It’s me, Julie, who has been embarrassingly away from blogging. I could list the two main reasons (hint: they are both in diapers. No, Charles is not in diapers), and about 235 other reasons (Self doubt: are people interested in what I have to say? Am I a good enough writer? I wish I took better photos. Logistics: Do you think I could write entire blog posts one handed while breastfeeding? I’m pretty sure I can’t in good conscience let the television babysit my kids all day…you get the idea). I’m putting all that aside right now in hopes of putting on my big girl panties and getting back on this blogging horse. At the very least, 20 years from now perhaps my children can read back on what their mama did in their early years.

Evidently there are no kid substitutions.

Evidently there are no kid substitutions.

I’ll do a separate blog post later on kid and family stuff at a later date – I may title that one “What No One Tells You To Expect When You’re Expecting.” Or “Why the Heck Didn’t Anyone Tell Me THAT!?” Followed by “What No One Tells You To Expect: The Baby and Toddler Years.” Truth be told, I’m still trying to wrap my head around what has been our reality these last few years, recuperating from some of the ongoing side effects (umbilical hernia, sleep deprivation, the simple fact that 1+1 does not = 2 when it comes to kids, etc.), and adjusting to life as I know it now. Don’t get me wrong: I love being a mom, and love my kids. I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. I’m just trying my best to raise decent human beings, keep them fed and clothed, and trying not to over-stress about and over-research (which leads to the stress) things related to them.

This post is not that. This post is the first in a series of a sort of “let me help you,” in that I see loads of questions and comments from people about these things on our blog and social media pages and elsewhere on the big world wide web, so I thought it might be helpful to create some generalizable tips and info for the masses. So here’s the first, pretty much most common question we get:

Question: Can I substitute x for y in your recipe?

Answer: It depends (you will see this answer a lot from us). Generally speaking, we (and quite a few authors/bloggers we know) will state if they have tried certain recipes with variations (e.g. “use coconut milk instead of heavy cream if you’re dairy-free” or “This would also work well with steak instead of chicken.”). Sometimes you’ll even see the alternatives in the list of ingredients. Or things like “If doing a Whole30, simply omit or substitute x for y” or “If on AIP, substitute x for y or omit.” If you come up with your own idea to tweak a recipe**, give it a shot and see how it goes. More likely than not, if you do not see such variations listed in a recipe, chances are that the original author has not tried it themselves (it takes enough time to do just one recipe – imagine the hours someone could devote to all the variations on a theme). Chances are that there’s no need for you to even ask – just give it a shot yourself.

There are some great basic infographics out there that talk a bit about some common cooking substitutions, like this, this or this one that’s all about subs for certain alcohols in recipes (note: we have not personally tried all these substitutions so cannot vouch for their reliability). But for those of you who are a little more serious about substitutions (maybe you’re the sort who never follows a recipe verbatim, but you don’t quite have the knowledge to totally wing things; maybe you are dealing with some particular sensitivities so you must be very restrictive in your diet; perhaps you’re like us and always find that we are missing something in our pantry), we have a few other suggestions to help you with your “use this instead of that” approach.

1. Books like The Food Substitutions Bible or Substituting Ingredients are chock full of info and resources to help you navigate your trade-offs or trade-ins. The former even goes into some equipment substitutions, and I find it incredibly helpful for that unavoidable moment when you have your heart set on a particular recipe and you realize you don’t have a certain ingredient (or maybe you thought you had 2 eggs but realized you only had 1).

2. The online Cook’s Thesaurus (aka foodsubs.com) is another super helpful resource to help you with your “recipe tweaking” moments. A lot faster than looking up in a book, but I still love the books.

3. And of course you can always do a little research on that massive thing called Google where you can check out what might be appropriate and reasonable as a substitute, what others have tried, etc.

**PLEASE NOTE THIS AND NOTE IT WELL AND COMMIT IT TO MEMORY (YES I AM WRITING THIS IN ALL CAPS INTENTIONALLY): Trying substitutions on your own all willy nilly pretty much never applies to baking. Deciding to “tweak” something in baking – unless you know exactly what you are doing and are confident in said tweak – could end up disastrous with lots of high quality ingredients now no longer fit for human consumption. While yes you can use the above resources to help you navigate the baking waters, we suggest proceeding with EXTREME caution, and be prepared for an outcome that might not be your favorite. We see this a ton when people decide to substitute coconut flour for any other flour in baking. (As an aside: even something as seemingly small like the brand of flour can make a big difference. After reading this post from Elana Amsterdam on coconut flour and the various brands and outcomes I am thinking we need to specify the brands of products we used in our recipes). Alas, in baking more so than most other cooking approaches little things that may not seem like big things can dramatically impact a baked good. For example, you can’t just swap out baking soda for baking powder at a 1:1 ratio (but here is a suggestion on how you can make the substitution). Use your best common sense when it comes to substitutions in baking, and proceed with caution if it may be a big deal. Swapping out blackberries for raspberries in a muffin will probably work just fine. Or nutmeg for cinnamon if that’s how you roll. But almond flour for coconut flour, or coconut flour for tapioca flour without drastically changing the recipe, or something other than eggs for eggs? We suggest doing your research before making such attempts.

This posting could go on for pages and pages, especially if I went down the rabbit hole of some common substitutions in paleo land. Perhaps in a future posting, if you all are interested.

Bottom line: some substitutions or omissions should be fine, while others we suggest you think about and do some research on to see if it might work. Remember, as home cooks we will totally tell you if we think a certain sub might work just fine, or if we tested things another way. Beyond that, spread your kitchen wings and give your alternate choice a go (remembering that baking cautionary note above) and let us know what you did and how it turned out – we love hearing from you!

Disclosure: Paleo Comfort Foods is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to various products. You do not pay anything extra (or less). It’s merely a way for us to help keep this blog alive and running. 

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